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HRN Original Blog:
View From The Bluegrass

The Whitney's Greatest Champions

This Saturday, August 6, 2011, the 84th running of The Whitney Handicap (G1) will take place at one of the great race tracks in the country, Saratoga.
 
The Whitney, while younger than some of the other great Saratoga stakes races, like the Travers Stakes (G1), which will hold its 142nd running on August 27, and the Alabama Stakes (G1), which will holds its 131st running on August 20, is still rich in history and filled with the names of some of the greatest horses the sport has ever known.
 
To get started, here's a look at some of the numbers and some trivia that make up a small sampling of information about a few of the champions that have run in the Whitney.
 
* Two 3-time champions
There have been two three times champions in the race. The first one was Discovery, who is the only horse to win the race in three consecutive years, 1934, 1935 and 1936.
 
The other horse to win in three times was Kelso, who won it three times over five years, 1961, 1963 and 1965.
 
* One 2-time champion
Only one horse has won it three times, and that was the New York-bred Commentator. He won the race in 2005 and 2008. He did try for a third win in 2009, but finished in third place. He was then retired to Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky.
 
* 17 Hall of Famers
Over the years, there have been 16 Hall of Fame horses that have won the Whitney. They are: Easy Goer (won it in 1989), Personal Ensign (1988), Lady's Secret (1986), Slew O'Gold (1984), Alydar (1978), Ancient Title (1975), Kelso (1965, 1963, 1961), Gun Bow (1964), Carry Back (1962), Equipose (1957), Tom Fool (1953), Gallorete (1948), Stymie (1946), Devil Diver (1944), Challedon (1940), Eight Thirty (1939 and War Admiral (1938).
 
* 6 female winners
Over the years there have been six female champions, which include the winners of the very first two Whitney races. Black Maria was the first winner of the race in 1928, followed by Bateau, Man O'War's greatest daughter, who won it in 1929. The other filly winners were: Personal Ensign (1988), Lady's Secret (1986), Gallorette (1948) and Esposa (1937).
 
* 1 Triple Crown winner
War Admiral was the only Triple Crown winner who won the Whitney. He did it in 1938.
 
* #1 biggest upset
Arguably, the biggest upset in the Whitney occurred in 1973, when Triple Crown winner Secretariat lost to Onion.
 
* #1 fastest time
In 2007, Lawyer Ron ran the race in 1:46.64, establishing the fastest time for the Whitney, and for Saratoga Race course, in a 1-1/8-mile race.
 
* 2 Whitney winners retired at Old Friends
There are two Whitney winners retired at Old Friends. Commentator, the 2005 and 2008 winner, resides at the Georgetown farm, while Will's Way, the 1997 winner, resides at Old Friends – the Bobby Frankel Division of the farm in New York near Saratoga where he won the race.
 
So, those are just some of the numbers and trivia about the race. Now here's a little history of some of the top champions that have won the Whitney over the years. They are not listed in any ranking order, but in the order in which they were run.
 
Note: While there is a lot of horse racing history and facts out on the Internet, some information, such as the name of the horse that each Whitney champion defeated in the race, was not available. Having said that, this article will be updated as some of those names are uncovered.
 
The filly Black Maria became the first winner of the Whitney in 1928 at age five, defeating Chance Shot, Friar’s Hope and the1927 Kentucky Derby winner Whiskery in the process.
 
Out of Black Toney-Bird Lose, by Sardanapale (Fr), Black Maria raced 52 times in her career, winning 18 times, including the Kentucky Oaks in 1926. She also finished second 14 times, third six times and collected $110, 350 during her career.
 
Sadly, the beautiful black filly was humanely destroyed just four years later in 1932, after suffering a broken leg in a paddock accident.
 
Bateau, another filly, won the second running of the Whitney in 1929. Known as one of the best daughters of Man O'War, and out of the mare Escuina (Fr), by Ecouen (Fr), the bay filly won the race when she was four-years old.
 
During her career, she won 11 times in 35 starts and collected $120,760 in prize money. She was also in the money 14 other times, finished second five times and third nine times. In addition, she was co-champion three-year old filly, and was champion handicap mare at age four.
 
In 1932, Equipose took home the win in the Whitney defeating Gusto.
 
By the end of his Hall of Fame career, "The Chocolate Soldier," as he was nicknamed, had 29 wins in 51 starts, 10 seconds, four thirds and $338,610 in career earnings.
 
In addition to those numbers, he earned a lot of honors as well. He was Co-Champion Two-Year-Old Male, along with Jamestown, in 1930.; Horse of the Year and Champion Handicap Horse in 1932 and 1933 and Champion Handicap Horse in 1934. He als became the leading sire in 1942.
 
A chestnut out of Pennant-Swinging, by Broomstick, Equipose, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1957, died in 1938 from an intestinal infection.
 
Discovery became the first multi-winner of the Whitney, capturing it for the first time in 1934, then defeating the filly Esposa in 1935 and 1936.
 
A beautiful chestnut out of Display-Ariadne, by Light Brigade, Discovery won 27 of 63 starts in his career and $195,287. He also had 10 seconds and 10 thirds in his Hall of Fame career, which he was elected to in 1969.
 
Interestingly, Discovery was named Horse of the Year in 1935 over Omaha, who had captured the Triple Crown. Nicknamed "The Iron Horse," he also captured Champion Male Handicap Horse honors in 1935 and 1936.
 
A champion dam sire, his progeny included many stakes winners, including Hall of Famers Native Dancer, Bold Ruler and Bed O'Roses.
 
Discovery died in 1958.
 
Esposa tried very hard in her career to win the Whitney, losing it to Discovery three times in a row, and to War Admiral in 1938. However, in 1937, the race was his – he finally won it.
 
The chestnut daughter of Espino-Quick Batter, by Runantell, had an illustrious career, winning 19 races in 96 starts and earning $132,055 in her seven year career. A perennial bridesmaid, she also had 23 seconds and 13 thirds.
 
One of her biggest wins came the Bowie Handicap in 1937, when she defeated Seabisuit in a record time of 2:45 1/5.
 
Surprisingly, she is not in the Hall of Fame. She died in 1957.
 
The only Triple Crown winner of the Whitney was War Admiral, who won the race in 1938, defeating Esposa.
 
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1958, the brown son of Man O'War-Brushup, by Sweep had a career mark of 21 wins (just like his father) in 26 starts, with three seconds, one third and $273,240 in earnings.
 
War Admiral was named Horse of the year in 1937 and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt in 1937, the same year he won the Triple Crown. He was also the leading North America sire in 1945.
 
He died in 1959. Originally buried next to his sire at Faraway Farm in Kentucky, the two were moved to the Kentucky Horse Park, where they now lay.
 
Hall of Famer Eight Thirty was the Whitney winner in 1939. A chestnut out of Pilate-Dinner Time, by High Time, he finished his career with 16 wins in 27 starts, three seconds, five thirds and $155,475 in earnings.
 
On of his biggest claims to fame was when he equaled the track record at Suffolk Downs when he won the Mass Cap at age four in 1940. he finished the nine-furlong race in 1:49 flat. The horse that held the record previously – Seabiscuit.
 
Eight Thirty died of natural causes in 1965 at the age of 29. he was elected to the hall of Fame in 1994.
 
Another Hall of Famer, Challedon, took home the Whitney trophy in 1940. Out of Challenger-Laura Gal, by Sir Gallahad (Fr) ended his career with 20 wins in 44 starts, seven seconds, six thirds and $334,600 in earnings.
 
The bay stallion also earned Horse of the Year honors in 1939 and 1940. He was also Champion Three-Year-Old Colt in 1939 and Champoin Handicap Horse in 1940.
 
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977, Challedon died in 1958 following a paddock accident in which he broke his leg.
 
In 1944, another bay Hall of Fame stallion, Devil Diver, won the Whitney. St Germans (GB)-Dabchick, by Royal Minstrel (GB), Devil Diver raced 47 times, winning 22 of them and earning $261,064. He also had 12 seconds and three thirds.
 
Elected into the Hall of Fame in 1980, he took home shared Champion Handicap Horse honors in 1943 and then won Champion Handicap Horse honors outright in 1944. He passed away in 1961.
 
Stymie, another Hall of Fame horse, won the Whitney in 1946, defeating Mahout, with Trymenow in third and Polyneisan fourth.
 
A chestnut out of Equestrian-Stop Watch, by On Watch, he ran in an amazing 131 races in his career, and was in the money 74 percent of the time, winning 35 times, finishing second 33 times and third 28 times.
 
Claimed after his third race for just $1,500, he retired as the all-time leading money earner in America with $918,485 in earnings. Considering he raced in at a time with such rivals as Assault, Armed and Gallorette, that was a great accomplishment.
 
Named Champion Handicap Horse in 1945, he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1975. He died in 1962.
 
Another of the six filly champions, Gallorette, captured the Whiney in 1948.
 
Gallorette was a chestnut out of Challenger (GB)-Gallette, by Sir Gallahad (Fr), who was also the grand sire of 1940 Whitney winner, Challedon.
 
During her career, she scored 21 wins in 72 starts, along with 20 seconds, 13 thirds and $445,535 in earnings.
 
Named Champion Handicap mare in 1940, she enjoyed a rivalry with Stymie, the 1946 Whitney winner.
 
Gallorete, who died in August 1959 of blood poisoning at High Hope Farm, was elected to the Hall o Fame in 1962.
 
Tom Fool was the Whitney winner in 1953, defeating Combat Boots.
 
A bay son of Menow-Gaga, by Bull Dog (Fr), Tom Fool won 21 of 30 starts, while finishing second seven times, first one time and collecting $570,165.
 
He was named Champion Two-Year-Old Colt in 1951, then had his best year in 1953, when he was named Horse of the Year, Champion Handicap Horse and Champion Sprinter.
 
He was also very successful at stud, as he was the sire of Buckpasser and Tim Tam, and then was leading broodmare sire in Britain and Ireland in 1965.
 
Elected into the Hall of Fame in 1960, he was pensioned from stud in 1972 and then died four years later at age 20 at Greentree Stud, now Gainesway Farm.
 
The Hall of Famer Kelso became the second three-time winner of the Whitney, capturing the race in 1961, 1963 and 1965.
 
His first win came in 1961, when he was bumped up to first after the winner, Our Hope was disqualified for running into him during the race.
 
After recapturing the race two years later in 1963, he returned in 1965 to win it a third time by defeating Malicious.
 
Out of Your Host-Maid of Flight, by Count Fleet, the brown gelding won 39 times in 63 career starts, finished second 12 times, third two times and was a millionaire earner, taking home $1,977,896 in his career.
 
As for awards, Kelso's trophy case was full. He is the only horse to be named Horse of the Year five times. He also was a Champion Three-Year-Old Male in 1960 and a four time Champion Older Male. Interestingly, he is the only three-year-old to be named Horse of the Year without winning a single Triple Crown race.
 
Ranked No. 4 in the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century and No. 1 Gelding in that same list, Kelso became a hunter and show jumper after he retired.
 
Kelso, who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1989, died in 1983 and is buried in the Allaire du Pont's Woodstock Farm cemetery.
 
Hall of Famer, Carry Back, won the 1962 Whitney over Crozier. The brown 1961 Champion Three-Year Old Colt out of Saggy-Joppy, by Star Blen, won 21 times in 63 career starts. He also had 11 seconds, 11 thirds and $1,241,165 in earnings.
 
He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1975, stood at The Stallion Station in Lexington and died in 1983 in Ocala, Fla. His ashes were interred at Churchill Downs.
 
Not much can be found about Gun Bow, who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1999, and defeated Mongo to win the Whitney in 1964.
 
Out of Gun Shot-Ribbons And Bows, by War Admiral, he was a bay stallion who had 17 wins in 42 starts, eight seconds, four thirds and $798,722 in earnings.
 
He entered stud in 1966, and then was sent to Japan in 1974. No info could be found about how and when he died.
 
Another all-time great thoroughbred, Dr. Fager, won the Whitney in 1968, defeating Spoon Bait.
 
Elected into the Hall of Fame in 1971, he was the bay son of Rough'n Tumble-Aspidistra, by Better Self. In his career, he raced 22 times, winning 18 times, finishing second two times, third one time and earning $1,002,642.
 
He also had a full trophy case after being named Champion Sprinter in 1967, and taking home Horse of the Year, , Champion Handicap Horse, Champion Turf Horse and Champion Sprinter honors in 1968.
 
A leading sire in 1971, Dr. Fager died in 1976 and is buried in Florida at Tartan Farm, which is now known as Winding Oaks Farm.
 
Ancient Title, who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2008, won the Whitney over Group Plan in 1975.
 
Out of Gummo-Hi Little Gal, by Bar Le Duc, the bay stallion won 24 times in 57 career starts and earned $1,252,791 in his seven-year racing career. He also had 11 seconds and nine thirds.
 
Named California Horse of the Year in 1974 and 1975, he retired as the leading California-bred money earner. He died in 1981 following surgery for colic.
 
Alydar, the only horse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races (to Affirmed), won the Whitney over Buckaroo in 1978.
 
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, the chestnut son of Raise A Native-Sweet Tooth, by On-And-On, had a 26 race career, winning 14 times, finishing second nine times, third one time and collecting $957,195 in earnings.
 
He stood at stud at famed Calumet Farm where he was the leading North American sire in 1990.
 
He was put down in 1990, after suffering a broken leg in his stall over night in 1990. He is buried in the Calumet Farm cemetery.
 
Another Hall of Famer, Slew O' Gold, was the winner in the Whitney in 1984, after coming back to win the race over track Barron.
 
The son of Triple Crown Sire Seattle Slew- Alluvial, by Buckpasser, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 following a 21-race career that saw him win 12 times, finish second five times, third one time and collecting $3,533,534 in earnings.
 
Named Champion Older Male in 1984, he was pensioned at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky, where at age 27, the bay stallion was euthanized because of the infirmities of old age in Oct. 2007. He is buried on the farm.
 
Lady's Secret became the fifth filly to win the race, when she defeated Ends Well to capture the Whitney in 1986.
 
Entering the Hall of Fame in 1992, the gray daughter of the great Triple Crown winner Secretariat-Great Lady M, by Icecapade, won 25 times in her 45-race career. She also had nieni seconds, three thirds and collected $3,021,325 in earnings, while also being named Horse of the Year and Champion Older Mare in 1986.
 
Sadly, she died in February 2003 in California due to foaling complications.
 
Two years later in 1988, another mare, Personal Ensign, became the sixth (and last to date) mare to win the Whitney, defeating Gulch.
 
The bay daughter of Private Account-Grecian Banner, by Hoist the Flag, who was named Champion Older Female in 1988, retired undefeated with 13 wins in 13 races, while collecting $1,679,800 in earnings.
 
She was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993 and became Broodmare of the Year in 1996.
 
The undefeated mare died at age 26 in April 2010 of natural causes in her paddock at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.
 
Easy Goer, the Champion Two-Year Old in 1988, won the Whitney in 1989, defeating Forever Silver, with Cryptoclearance taking third.
 
A chestnut out of 1978 Whitney winner Alydar-Relaxing, by Buckpasser, Easy Goer completed his career with 14 wins in 20 races, with five seconds, one third and $4,873,770 in earnings.
 
To this day, he is the only horse to ever win the Whitney, Travers Stakes (G1), Woodword Stakes (G1) and Jockey Gold Cup (G1), and only one of two horses to ever win the Belmont Stakes (G1), Travers, and Champagne Stakes (G1).
 
Easy Goer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989. He died a premature, but natural death at Claiborne Farm at age eight.
 
Criminal Type was not a Hall of Famer, yet is still one of racings great thoroughbreds. He won the Whitney in 1990, defeating Dancing Spree.
 
The chestnut son of 1978 Whitney winner Alydar-Klepto, by No Robbery, Criminal Type finished his career with 10 wins in 24 starts, five seconds, three thirds and $2,351,817 in earnings. He also earned Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse honors in 1990.
 
Criminal Type was sent to Japan during his stud career, and sadly died in March 2005 of a gastric rupture, just a few months before he was going to get to come home to the United States and retire at Old Friends.
 
Will's Way, an Old Friends retiree, won the Whitney in 1997, defeating Formal Gold. Skip Away finished third that day.
 
Out of 1989 Whitney Champion Easy Goer-Willamae, by Tentam, the bay stallion had six wins in 13 career starts, along with two seconds, three thirds and $956,400 in earnings.
 
He now enjoys his retirement at the Old Friends – The Bobby Frankel Division in New York.
 
Medaglia d'Oro won the Whitney in 2003, defeating Volponi, with Evening Attire in third.
 
Out of El Prado (Ire)-Cappucino Bay, by Bailjumper, the brown stallion collected $5,754,720 in a 17 race career, that saw him win eight times and finished second seven times.
 
He entered stud duty at Stonewall Farm in 2005, and was later moved to Darley in Kentucky.
 
Today, he is most noted as a stud with multiple stakes winners or stakes placed fillies, which include 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, Renda, She’s Our Annie, Gabby’s Golden Gal, Retraceable, Ameribelle, Hug it Out and Payton d’Oro.
 
The 2005 Uraguanian Triple Crown Winner, Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt, Invasor (Arg) defeated Sun King to win the 2006 Whitney, the year he also earned Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male honors in the United States.
 
The bay son of Candy Stripes-Quendom (Arg), by Interprete (Arg) finished his career in the United States. All told he had 11 wins in 12 starts and collected $7,804,070 in earnings.
 
He was also the only American Horse of the Year to win six consecutive Grade 1 races. Invasor was retired in June 2007 because of a recurring fracture.
 
Lawyer Ron won the 2007 edition of the Whitney, defeating Wanderin Boy. In addition, he established Whitney and Saratoga course records for 1-1/8-mile of 1:46.64 in the process.
 
A chestnut son out of Langfuhr-Donation, by Lord Alive, Lawyer Ron won 12 times in 26 starts and amassed $2,790,008 in earnings. He also finished second four times and third four times.
 
Named Champion Older Male in 2007, he was retired to Stonewall Farm in Kentucky in 2008. Sadly, he died young. In July 2009, he had to be euthanized due to complications form colic surgery. (Read Brian Zipse's article about Lawyer Ron.)
 
Commentator, a  potential Hall of Famer, is currently the only two-time winner of the Whitney. He defeated Saint Liam to win in 2005 and then defeated Student Council to win it in 2009.
 
He did try to win it one more time, but finished third to winner Bullsbay and second-place finisher Macho Again.
 
The chestnut son of Distorted Humor-Outsource, by Storm Bird (Can) finished his career with 14 wins in 24 starts, one second, four thirds and $2,029,845 in earnings.
 
Following his third-place finish in 2009, he was sent to Old Friends to enjoy his retirement.
 
The final horse for this list is 2010 winner Blame, who defeated Quality Road to win the Whitney last year. Musket Man was third.
 
A bay horse out of Arch-Liable, by Seeking the Gold, he ended his career with nine wins in 13 starts, two seconds, two thirds and $4,368,214.
 
His most notable win came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs last November, when he became the only horse to defeat the super mare, Zenyatta.
 
At the end of the year, he was named Champion Older Male, but lost out in Horse of the Year voting to Zenyatta.
 
After the Breeders' Cup, he was retired to stud duty at Claiborne Farm.
 
 
Information for this article was researched and obtained from PedigreeQuery.com, Brisnet.com, BloodHorse.com and ThoroughbredTimes.com.
 
Photos by Rick Capone (top photo, Commentator; bottom photo, Will's Way)

 

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Older Comments about The Whitney's Greatest Champions ...

Love this!!!
Commentator!! Amazing horse - and I did not remember his Whitneys were years apart! WOW!
Great history of a great race. My personal favorite winner of the Whitney is Invasor. He doesn't get the respect he deserves as one of the best horses of the last decade. Last years Whitney was one of the best races of the year, just hope this one is as good.
I agree with Brian...great job!!!
Discovery was a beast...Whenever I think of Secretariat...Discovery bloodline comes to mind...
Thanks Brian, It was a lot of fun researching all of those great champions. Thanks for the kind words.
It takes some time to work through this entire rundown, but well worth it. The list of Whitney winners is truly remarkable. A few that stand out in my memory were of course the Onion upset, Alydar's romp, Java Gold's coming out party, one of my favorites winning - Lady's Secret, and the thrilling win by Invasor. Great piece, Rick!

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Meet Rick Capone
                                  
Rick Capone has been a horse racing fan since the Saturday afternoon when he saw Riva Ridge, his all-time favorite horse, win the Kentucky Derby on television.
 
Today, he is the sports editor for The Woodford Sun, a weekly newspaper in Versailles, Ky., a town just outside of Lexington and only 15 minutes away from Keeneland.
 
In addition to his duties at the Sun, Rick is a volunteer at Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown that is owned by Michael Blowen. He even is part owner of one of the retirees there, Miss Hooligan, the grand daughter of 1988 Eclipse Award – Champion Turf Horse, Sunshine Forever, who is also on the farm.
 
Rick grew up in Havertown, Pa., just outside of West Philadelphia. At 20, he moved to South Florida with his family and lived a stones throw from Gulfstream. After some stops in North Carolina, Georgia and California, he currently lives in Georgetown, Ky., where he gets to drive by some of the greatest horse farms in the world on his way to work every morning.
 

(Photo: Miss Hooligan and Rick at Old Friends this past December. (Photo by Steve Blake)